November/December 2009

California Ins & Outs

California, Nevada, Arizona

Closing in on another year gone by, most of the last two months have found us in California.  A good state to visit, and we have many friends and family with whom we’ve done just that.  Beginning on Halloween, we’ve wandered the state from south to north and back again.

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California struggles to solve its financial problems in the midst of a federal government experiencing even larger ones.  We found that immediate job security, the ability to retire, concern for children (and – even more so – grandchildren) and their future – these were worries that we encountered far too often.   Nothing new to all of you, wherever you are, but California has not escaped this time; the problems are both immediate and sobering.

But, we were welcomed and well taken care of (oh well, what’s a few more pounds on the ole’ frame?) and we had a terrific time.  One highlight was a chance, in San Luis Obispo, to attend a live symphony concert that featured the incredible cellist, Lynn Harrell, as guest soloist.  This was an evening we’ll long remember.

And, along the highways in the Sacramento area, several times we passed billboards featuring a lithe figure doing strenuous exercises amidst the phrase “All hail, Gluteus Maximus”; probably an advert for a gym, but we never found out.

Motorcycle spectaculars included the huge San Mateo motorcycle show in November, followed in December by Rick getting the chance to take a dirt bike school (with an attractive blonde in charge) in the desert east of Escondido.  Vroom, vroom; Mr. Rick is now Moto Rick, thank you.  Pretty hot stuff.   We also enjoyed yet another great car museum, this time the Blackhawk Museum in Danville.  More pretty old cars and we do enjoy them; this museum is pretty spectacular as you can see from the photo.  A very dramatic presentation and some beautiful cars; unfortunately, the deep black of the background and the spot lighting of the cars make for some challenges for the photographer.  A very nice collection though.

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While visiting in the L.A. “urbanopolis” we were blessed with lovely, clear weather for a change.  No smog for us!  And snow when we trucked up to Big Bear Lake, which, at over 7,000 feet, was getting a doozy of a start on winter.  We got lucky, and arrived-visited-left after one storm and just before the next one.  It can be awfully slippery getting up and down that mountain.

But enough of all this visiting, we said; collapsing for a couple of weeks would be just the ticket.  So where did we go?  Pahrump, Nevada, of course.  Huh?  Where’s Pahrump?  Well, about 50 miles from Las Vegas, for one thing; and a different 50 miles or so from Death Valley, back in California.  Seemed like a good spot to us.

And it was.  Cold at night (down into the low 20s), chilly during the day; snow the 2nd night we were there.  We had landed in the desert, at about 2600 feet in altitude.  It was a great place to collapse; we spent a couple of weeks, making three trips into Vegas for bright lights/big city; we had the chance to have lunch with our two oldest grandchildren, who are definitely all grown up.  That was a real treat! 

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Rejuvenated, we made a trip through Death Valley National Park, long on Kathy’s list of places-to-go-before-I-can’t.  Rick, having been there before, said, well, okay.  But it was neat and dramatic.  We took some pictures at Badwater, at -282 feet the lowest spot in the western hemisphere.  We grinned as we remembered the inverse, when we took pictures in South America at over 16,000 feet.  It has been quite a year.  While we were in the area we saw loads of Joshua trees; Rick heaved a sigh of relief, as another one of those places on Kathy’s list had been Joshua Tree National Park; Kathy was happy to cross it off her list.

We are now spending the holidays and most of January in Arizona, visiting with friends and family, and just trying to stay warm until we start moving further east in February.  We often remember our first New Years on the road – we were on the motorcycle and living in a tent; it was 34 degrees in San Antonio as we sat in our campground trying to eat our morning cereal before it froze.  At least this year we have a better roof over our heads!

We are getting anxious to get to Europe.  Too bad it makes no sense to ship over until spring.  We’d be there – NOW.  But we wait for the March shipping schedules to be posted, and we plan, and we enjoy the sunny southwest.

As the year ends, we wish you a 2010 that brings peace of mind and peace among mankind.  With much love and affection, we are

Team Tortuga – Rick, Kathy, La Liebre, and La Tortuga herself

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We leave you with these happy thoughts from Team Tortuga at the Mojave National Preserve...

© Rick & Kathy Howe 2001-2018